Call for Papers: Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Wake of the Covid-19 Crisis


A special issue of
International Journal of Gender & Entrepreneurship
Guest Editors:

Professor Lene Foss, Jönköping University, Sweden / UiT – The Arctic University of Norway, Norway​​​​​​​
Associate Professor Kate Lewis, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
Professor Colette Henry, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Ireland

The Covid- 19 pandemic affects everyone, including our research community. While some research endeavors have managed to garner specific launch/start-up support as a result of the Covid 19-pandemic through media attention (e.g.  directed research bids, fast tracking for ethical testing, etc), most research has been impeded because planned empirical studies cannot be operationalized. As such, the pandemic hampers the research efforts of those working in an already pressured education/research sector. In this call for papers we aim to capture research that is capable of providing new knowledge with regard to entrepreneurial behavior in this time of crisis.

Entrepreneurship research is critical in Universities and Business Schools. Most policy initiatives that have been offered to protect economies during the Covid-19 crisis seem to target established corporations (Kuckertz et al; 2020), however, there is a need for research that focuses on start-ups and the self-employed, as well as the challenges they face and the support they receive from the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem. Given that start-ups which shape future economic activity are amongst the most vulnerable actors in the economy (Walsh & Cunningham, 2016), there is a need for immediate research attention. Start-ups, due to their newness and smallness (Aldrich & Fiol 1994), as well as their lower legitimacy base (Zimmermann & Zeitz, 2002), are especially vulnerable during the current Covid-19 crisis.

Women’s entrepreneurship is an area that needs specific research attention in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, as self-employed and small and medium enterprises are at the center of the current crises. According to a recent study, more than 50 % of SMEs have already lost significant revenue and are at risk of being out of business within three months (OECD, 2020). Women face specific challenges due to balancing work with increased household responsibilities, including childcare due to school closures. Across the OECD countries, women also spending two hours more per day on unpaid work at home than men (OECD Gender data portal). Furthermore, one quarter of self-employed women have employees (OECD, 2019), consequently we can expect a significant number of business exits and substantial job losses.

Solo self-employed individuals have been especially impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. These entrepreneurs typically provide services to business and end-consumers, such as accounting, IT, consulting, tourism, wellness and education. With the general curfew banning large public gatherings, self-employed individuals operating as event managers, musicians and photographers can no longer work.  By losing substantial revenue, self-employed individuals face serious liquidity challenges. Solo entrepreneurs often start their businesses out of necessity (de Vries, 2019), which is found to motivate entrepreneurial behavior and strategic planning (Block et al; 2015).  Most self-employed individuals operate their businesses in the form of sole proprietorships, often failing to distinguish between their business and their private life (Hyytinen & Russkaren, 2017). There is some evidence that women operate businesses with lower levels of capitalization and are more reliant on self-financing (OECD/European Union, 2019). Many rely on internal financing, and often have small financial reserves. Consequently, a revenue decrease resulting from the Covid-19 crisis has immediate implications for entrepreneurs’ personal incomes and their ability to finance their cost of living. Women entrepreneurs may be at greater risk of having to close for extended periods, with substantially reduced or no revenue.

Women’s entrepreneurship in developing countries is particularly at risk, as women’s anticipated vulnerability through the Covid-19 crisis will likely be exacerbated.  The exposure to health risks due to areas with inadequate or underdeveloped health-care infrastructure is of immediate concern. The female- to-male ratio of unpaid work ranges from more than three times in Latin America and the Caribbean, to almost seven times in Northern Africa (OECD, 2019). Women’s entrepreneurship research would benefit from more contributions from developing countries to add diversity to contemporary entrepreneurship scholarship. Thus, this current call aims to attract contributions that highlight the various geographical, political and institutional contexts in which women entrepreneurs have been operating during the Covid-19 pandemic, shedding light on the challenges these contexts have presented.  Accordingly, we invite both theoretical and empirical reflection papers (4,000 to 5,000 words, excluding references) on a theme related to women’s entrepreneurship in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. We are open to a wide range of methodological approaches, including narrative approaches  as well as those that employ secondary data analyses or literature reviews to highlight key issues or lessons learnt from Covid-19 (and other major crises), and which use findings to inform entrepreneurs, educators, researchers and policy makers, or help shape a robust future research agenda in this field. Reflecting some of the research perspectives discussed at the recent OECD (2020) and DIRI (2020) webinars that focused on women’s entrepreneurship and the impact of Covid-19, and acknowledging the additional family responsibilities that many women have had to take on during Covid-19, we encourage researchers to consider aspects that have been especially impacted by the crisis, such as: business growth (Orser), access to finance (Coleman), networking (Henry) and intersectionality (Marlow). Authors might consider using the family/household unit as their research context (Hughes), or give some consideration to the impact of gender in entrepreneurship policymaking (Welter), especially during the current crisis.

Topics/research questions can include, but are not restricted to:

  • How have women entrepreneurs experienced the Covid-19 crisis in terms of their particular business and industry/region/country context?
  • How have women managed the business-family intersphere?
  • How have women entrepreneurs reoriented their business?
  • Which learning processes have women entrepreneurs gone through and how have these affected their further plans for their business?
  • How do women entrepreneurs compare to their male counterparts during this time of crisis?
  • Does the low capitalization of women’s businesses mean high vulnerability or low susceptibility?
  • How have policy measures – whether existing or newly implemented to address Covid-19 issues – helped (or hindered) women’s entrepreneurial activities?
  • Analysis of specific initiatives designed to support during Covid-19 and targeted by gender
  • Gendered comparative examinations of the experience of Covid-19 for small business owners across country contexts
  • Intersectional considerations of the gendered entrepreneurship experience during Covid-19
  • Critiques of structural discrimination embedded in policy responses to Covid-19.

Deadline and Submission Details

The submission deadline for all papers is 18 September 2020.

Authors are asked to please ensure that they tick the ‘Covid-19’ special issue box on submission.

To submit your research, please visit the Scholar One manuscript portal.

To view the author guidelines for this journal, please visit the journal’s page.

Contact the Guest Editors: 

Professor Lene Foss
Jönköping University, Sweden

Associate Professor Kate Lewis
Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

Professor Colette Henry
Dundalk Institute of Technology, Ireland


Aldrich, H.E. & Fiol, C.M. (1994) Fools rush in? The institutional context of industry creation. Academy of Management Review, 19, 645-670.

Berglund, K., Ahl, H. & Pettersson, K. (2017) Tales of heroine entrepreneurs, in Henry, C., Nelson, T. and Lewis, K.V. The Routledge Companion to Global female Entrepreneurship, pp 282-298.

BlockJ.H., Kohn, K., Miller, D. & Ullrich, K.  (2015) Necessity entrepreneurship and competitive strategy. Small Business Economics,  Vol. 44, pages 37–54.

de Vries, N.,  Liebregts, W. &  van Stel, A. (2019) Explaining entrepreneurial performance of solo self-employed from a motivational perspective, Small Business Economics

DIRI (2020) Diana International Research Institute. Women’s entrepreneurship and Covid-19 Webinar, 24th June 2020.

Foss, L. (2004) ‘Going against the grain.’ Construction of Entrepreneurial Identity through Narratives, in Steyart, C.and Hjort, D. (eds), Narrative and Discursive Approaches in Entrepreneurship. Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 80-104.

Hyytinen, A. & Ruskanen, O.P. (2007) Time use of the self-employed. Kyklos, 60 (1), 105-122.

Kuckerts, A., Brändle, L., Gaudig, A., Hinderer, S., Reyes, C.A.M., Prochotta, A., Steinbrink, K.M. &  Berger, E.S.C. (2020) Startups in time of crisis- A rapid response to the COVID- 19 pandemic. Journal of Business Venturing Insights, 13.

OECD. (2020). Women’s Entrepreneurship and Covid-19 Webinar, 9th June 2020.

OECD Development Centre. (2019) Gender, Institutions and Development database (GID-DB) 2019).

OECD/European Union. (2019) The missing Entrepreneurs 2019: Policies for Inclusive Entrepreneurship, OECD Publishing Paris.

OECD. (2020) Women at the core of the fight against COVID – 19 crisis. Tackling Coronavirus (Covid 19) Contributing to a global effort.

Pailot, P., Poroli, C. & Chasserio, S. ( 2017) Perceived legitimacy of women entrepreneurs: Between identity legitimacy and entrepreneurial legitimacy. in  Henry, C., Nelson, T. and Lewis, K.V. The Routledge Companion to Global female Entrepreneurship, pp 299-323.

Zimmermann, M.A. & Zeitz, G.J. (2002) Beyond survival: achieving new venture growth by building legitimacy. Academy of Management Review, 27, 414-431.


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